UAE tempers response to offshore tanker attacks

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Saudi Arabia has reopened a key oil pipeline, an official said yesterday, after it was shut down by drone attacks claimed by Iran-aligned Yemen rebels.

Aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said that at least four people were killed and 48 wounded in coalition air strikes on Yemen's rebel-held capital Sanaa on Thursday.

India Thursday strongly condemned the drone attacks targeting oil installations in Saudi Arabia two days ago.

USA officials believe Iran encouraged the Houthis or Iraq-based Shi'ite militias to carry out the attack, two US government sources have said.

This statement came out hours after Houthi-owned TV Almasirah reported that "7 Drones have targeted vital Saudi facilities".

IOC Director (Finance) A K Sharma said the company has an annual contract to buy 5.6 million tonnes of crude oil from Saudi Arabia.

"The attack by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias against the two Aramco pumping stations proves that these militias are merely a tool that Iran's regime uses to implement its expansionist agenda in the region", he wrote on Twitter.

Some observers speculate Tehran is seeking to retaliate over Washington's decision in April to put Iran's Revolutionary Guards on a terror blacklist - a move created to stymie their activities across the Middle East.

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Iran recently threatened it might resume higher enrichment by July 7, beyond the level permitted by the current deal between Tehran and world powers.

That attack against a mock-up US warship was part of elaborate naval war games carried out by the elite Revolutionary Guards in 2015.

Anwar Gargash, the minister of foreign affairs for the United Arab Emirates, told reporters in Dubai that the Saudi-led coalition will "retaliate hard" for attacks on civilian targets, without elaborating.

Four tankers, of which two belonged to Saudi Aramco, suffered sabotage attacks off the coast of the UAE emirate of Fujairah last week, suffering minor damages.

He added that USA sanctions had bit deeply into Iran and that a political solution was necessary. Small wonder the Saudi energy ministry has described the incident as an "act of terrorism that not only targets the kingdom but also the security of oil supplies to the world and the global economy".

Earlier today The New York Times quoted three White House officials as saying the overhead images showing fully assembled missiles had prompted Washington to ramp up its rhetoric against Tehran. A US official previously said all four ships sustained damage at or below their waterlines.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif, speaking in Tokyo on Thursday, said Iran was committed to an worldwide nuclear deal but the escalating USA sanctions were "unacceptable".

Iran has denied it was involved in the attack on the vessels. Absent a dialogue between Iran and the United States and Iran and the UAE-Saudi Arabia, however, the atmosphere is likely to remain one of confusion and anxiety, in which rhetoric about ramping up conflict could spur further attacks and uncertainty.

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